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The Cultural Role of Tsonga Beer-Drink Music

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  14 February 2019

Thomas F. Johnston*
University of Alaska, Fairbanks, Alaska
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Of seven distinct bodies of vocal music and one body of instrumental music recognized and separately classified by the Tsonga of Mozambique and the Northern Transvaal, beer-drink music is the most often performed and comprises about 40% of the total folksong repertoire of about five hundred items (Figure 1). The other musical styles are exorcism music, girls’ initiation music, children's songs, solo instrumental music, boys’ drumming school music, and circumcision school music (Figure 2). The order given reflects the estimated man-hours of performance (the circumcision school is organized only every four or five years), and it coincides roughly with sample rankings obtained from informants during the period 1968–70. Variations of the ranking were some women's claim that girls’ initiation music is more important than exorcism music, and some men's claim that muchongolo (the national dance performed at beer-drinks) is more important than beer-songs or any other single category.

Copyright © 1974 By the International Folk Music Council 

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1. Curt Sachs, The Wellsprings of Music (The Hague, 1962), p. 68.Google Scholar

2. Junod, Henri A., Les contes et les chantes des Ba-Ronga (Lausanne, 1897), p. 38.Google Scholar

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4. A good interval count analysis is to be found in John Blacking, Venda Children's Songs (Johannesburg, 1967), p. 173, but here, and in his many subsequent publications, Blacking points out the many pitfalls of the procedure and counsels caution.Google Scholar

5. Neher, Andrew, “A Physiological Explanation Of Unusual Behavior In Ceremonies Involving Drums,” Human Biology, 34 (1962), pp. 151–160.Google Scholar